Sixers (1-3) vs. Rockets (3-1)
7 p.m. on NBCSP, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.
All it took was a historic accomplishment from a rookie and 30 points from their center for the Sixers to crack into the win column Monday with a 97-86 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Now the Sixers will look for their first home win of the new season when they host James Harden and the lethal Houston Rockets.
Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:
• If for some reason you were struggling to understand the hype around Ben Simmons, mark down Monday’s performance as exhibit A.
Simmons controlled the action with 21 points (8 for 11 shooting), 12 rebounds and 10 assists. He became just the third rookie in NBA history to record a triple-double within his first four games (Oscar Robertson and Art “Hambone” Williams).
Simmons continues to validate Brett Brown’s decision to make him the team’s point guard, which is having some trickle-down effect around the league. Look no further than LeBron James starting at PG for the first time since 2005 in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ comeback win Tuesday over the Chicago Bulls.
“It's the first of many for him,” James said to ESPN of Simmons’ feat. “He's a triple threat, ability to score in transition, rebound and pass the ball. His passing is his best quality and high basketball IQ. So, it's the first of many triple-doubles for the young guy.”
• While one rookie is shining on the court, the Sixers’ other No. 1 overall pick is going on the shelf.
Markelle Fultz’s shoulder injury will keep him out at least the next three games (see story). He will be reevaluated next Tuesday.
Fultz's injury saga took a new turn just a day ago when his agent, Raymond Brothers, initially ESPN reported the rookie had fluid drained from his shoulder to only revise his statement and say it was a cortisone injection.
Either way, Brothers painted a grim picture of Fultz’s overall health.
“He literally cannot raise up his arms to shoot the basketball,” Brothers said. “He decided to try and fight through the pain to help the team. He has a great attitude. We are committed to finding a solution to get Markelle back to 100 percent.”
Whether Brothers is exaggerating or not, it is clear Fultz is experiencing discomfort. The shoulder has limited his ability and in turn his production. Fultz has averaged just 6.0 points on 33.3 percent shooting from the field and 50.0 percent from the free throw line.
Clearly, this situation has been mishandled, but get the issue rectified now and Fultz back to looking like the guy everyone remembers from that lone season at Washington.
• While Fultz is certainly a competitor, we’re sure he won’t miss having to figure out how to help contain one of the NBA’s most dangerous scorers in James Harden.
Harden is finding his footing to start the new season, but he has still managed to put up 26.3 points a night.
With superstar point guard Chris Paul banged up, Harden has taken on even more of the offensive duties. Through four games, he is averaging a career-high 20.8 field goal attempts. That includes a whopping 11.0 tries from three-point range per game.
Harden will definitely get his buckets. The key for the Sixers is to make sure it doesn’t get out of control like the last time “The Beard” came to Philadelphia.
Last season on Jan. 27, Harden torched the Sixers in a historic performance with 51 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists in a 123-118 Rockets’ win. He became the first player in league history with multiple 50-point triple-doubles in a single season.
• Sixers fans will remember that game as the last time they saw Joel Embiid on the floor in 2016-17 before the big man was shut down for the season with a knee injury.
But let’s not focus on the past (even though Embiid was dominant with 32 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks in that one).
Instead, let’s look at what the center has done so far in 2017-18 with just one day in between games.
Embiid made his preseason debut with 22 points and seven boards in 15 minutes against the Brooklyn Nets. He followed that up two days later with a five-point, seven-rebound effort vs. Hassan Whiteside and the Miami Heat in the preseason finale.
Embiid looked solid in the regular-season opener with 18 points and 13 rebounds against the Washington Wizards. Then he turned in an 11-point performance on 4 of 16 shooting (0 for 6 from three-point range) a couple days later in a loss to the Boston Celtics.
Now “The Process” is coming off a stellar effort of 30 points (11 for 15) and nine rebounds in Monday’s victory over the Pistons. Will he continue to build on that game or look lethargic again with a day between matchups?
• Former Sixers associate head coach Mike D’Antoni returns to Philadelphia with a 64-33 record (including playoffs) since taking over the Rockets. D’Antoni was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year a season ago.
• Fultz (shoulder) and Richaun Holmes (wrist) are out for the Sixers.
Paul (knee), Trevor Ariza (foot) and Nene (Achilles) are out for the Rockets.